How should I determine my expected salary range?

Dramatic market fluctuations can rapidly expand and contract salary offerings. The doubts of the pandemic constricted payrolls and org charts, followed by a period of high-velocity hiring and exploding (and unsustainable) salaries. As economic downturns are compelling more companies to layoff talent, they may struggle to decide what kind of salary they can expect.

Finding Comps

Explore sites like or to find a baseline for expected salary ranges. Avoid Glassdoor, as numbers are self-reported and numbers can be skewed by lack of clarity around including or excluding bonuses. These sites offer averages and bell curves, so their comps may lag a bit behind other sources, showing market changes a few months after the impact.

Job Listings with Pay Transparency

Some states and cities require pay ranges to be listed on job ads. Track down some of these listings and find commensurate city size and industry to come up with your own estimations of pay range based on your targeted areas.

Some of these listings offer too wide of a range to help job seekers, so don’t expect this to be the final authority when shaping your salary expectations.

Ask Your Network

If you can uncover a few people recently hired into a similar role, they will most likely provide the most accurate read of the industry’s current salary offerings. Attending industry events, searching relevant titles on LinkedIn to start conversations, and watching hiring announcements can help you find solid sources of current salary intel.

Recruiter Conversations

You are absolutely encouraged to ask recruiters questions. Ask recruiters for the salary range of the role. Offer up a desired range based on your research and ask if they think the range sounds fair based on your level of expertise. Recruiters are accustomed to lobbying for talent internally and knowing the deal breakers. They can be tremendously helpful in decerning if your ask just won’t fly.

Land Multiple Offers

The absolute best method of finding out your current market value is to navigate an ambitious job search and land multiple offers, negotiating them against each other to find the ceiling. This requires well-branded career collateral (resume, LinkedIn, bios, etc.), an active network, and a willingness to self-advocate.

Timing is also a crucial component of this strategy, as offers coming in around the same time can boost demand and increase your ability to leverage them for a more favorable compensation package.

Job seekers don’t want to leave money on the table, but they also don’t want to lose leads or set themselves up for more career disruption in the near future.

You can safeguard the connections and relationships you’ve worked so hard to build while securing an appealing compensation package.

Job Seekers Don't Want to Leave Money on the Table

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Layoffs are uncomfortable.

It’s one thing to plan an exit strategy and job search. Quite another to have it thrust upon you. Layoffs add another layer of confusion and emotional processing — Did I do something wrong? Should I have left earlier? Should I completely change course? Amid the overwhelm, it can be hard to know what to do next.

With decades of experience in outplacement and as a job search strategist, I’ve seen my share of layoffs. I’ll share what I’ve seen work time and again — gaining clarity and calm, preparing your career collateral, and hitting the market with dignity.

Gaining Clarity & Calm

Find support. If you can’t do so immediately, make a plan to seek out support as soon as possible. Some organizations offer outplacement services or recommend a list of local resources, such as Career Centers or Community Support Programs.

Gather data and contact info while you can. You may not be able to access the documents and reports that will help you update your resume for long, so try to track down any helpful information before you leave. If you are already locked out, there is no harm in asking a friendly colleague or HR if you can have access to a few documents as long as they do not contain competitive knowledge, IP, customer information, or any other sensitive data.

You also might want to ask work friends and colleagues for their contact information. They could be important to your search as references, sources for leads, and support.

Ask clarifying questions and take notes. People are often in shock when notified of a layoff, so don’t expect to remember most of what is said. You will most likely need clarification and follow up.

Don’t sign anything yet. Request to review any information and ask for time to think before signing any agreements. Offerings upon layoff can vary widely — NDAs, non-competes, severance payments, outplacement services, and more each come with their own concerns and considerations. You might even want to ask a trusted friend, contact, or your lawyer to review documents. Depending on the scenario, you might even be able to negotiate at this point.

Take stock of your finances. Every search is different and there are no guarantees, so plan for your search length to last at least 1-3 months if targeting high-turnover/entry-level roles, at least 3-6 months if targeting managerial roles, and a year or more for executive roles.

Emotional check-in. Your life is changing. Losing your job means most days will be different, for better or for worse. Layoffs can shock people and even disrupt their sense of self. Find at least one trusted person to share your feelings. Journal your reactions. Write down any negative self-talk (so you can talk back!)

It’s important to get emotions OUT before you hit the market. Otherwise, they will leak out in places you least expect — inadvertent negative word choice in the resume, an unkind word slipping out about previous employer in an interview, a hesitation in responding to why you left your last role…

Avoid venting to large groups of people, which can contaminate your network. Even if they want to help you, they will focus on emotional support over exploring leads.

Similarly, avoid venting anger or hostility to those who get you worked up. Sometimes in an effort to support a friend, people inadvertently amplify negative sentiment. If you feel like your chosen support person is feeding negative emotions rather than helping you move past them, consider seeking support elsewhere.

Briefly and honestly get out your frustrations to enable yourself to move and set new goals that get you excited about your next steps!

Know your target. If you need something fast, target a role similar to the one you just left. It’s often easiest and fastest to do so. If you have time and can afford to be choosy about your next role, consider what you enjoyed the most and target roles that allow you to do what you enjoy more.

If you had been considering a career change, a layoff sometimes provides the impetus to make a move! Find professionals on LinkedIn who already do what you think you’d like to do next and try to strike up a conversation to ask what the role is really like. You might also find it helpful to take a quick course to explore the field further. If you’re certain that you’re pursuing a career change, you will want to refocus your resume and LinkedIn through that new lens.

Preparing Your Career Collateral

Update your resume. Before you start conversations with your network, make sure your resume is up to date. Add your most recent wins, points of impact, and metrics. Numbers pop off the page and give your assertions legitimacy, so dig out or estimate metrics to add more power to your resume.

You also want to make sure everything on your resume has earned its place and speaks to the role you want next. If it doesn’t fit the narrative for your next role, it should probably go!

Social media audit. Evaluate all of your social media channels. Potential employers will research you, so delete anything that doesn’t reflect well upon you. Add content that builds up your candidacy, such as a fully populated and up-to-date LinkedIn profile, a website or portfolio, and more.

Interview prep. It might seem silly, but practice introducing yourself. Record yourself answering the most common interview questions in a mock interview with a friend or coach. Know your top success stories and be prepared to tie them back to how they could benefit a potential employer. Use prep tools for video interviews to prepare yourself for how the varying interfaces work.

If you’re anticipating a technical interview, 30-60-90 plan, or proposal as part of your interview process, make time to practice this part of the process, as well.

Hitting the Market With Dignity

Activate or build your network. Very few professionals enjoy a network primed with an offer as soon as the news breaks that you might be interested in talking about other opportunities. It might take a little time to reconnect, so feel free to catch up on a personal level before mentioning you are open to a new role.

If you don’t have solid connections from your previous role, your contacts changed industries, your colleagues were moved outside of your target region, or your former bosses have retired, you might find yourself starting from scratch. That’s okay!

You CAN build a strong network by focusing on relationships and offering value upfront. Reach out to those you truly share interests with or respect, ask sincere questions, and contribute something of value early and often to encourage responsiveness.

Spread goodwill. If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to write recommendations for your industry connections and colleagues. Relevant, specific recommendations not only benefit your network, but also showcase your high emotional intelligence. Many claim to support their teams, appreciate their colleagues, or engage in mentoring/coaching. By writing a recommendation, you are providing evidence! This comes with the added bonus of gaining real estate on their profile, making it more likely you will be seen.

Another way to lead with value is to compile 3-5 offerings you feel comfortable giving away. Not something incredibly time consuming, but something that indicates your generosity and opens up the channels of communication, such as book or podcast reviews, introductions within your network, advice on new tools or technologies that might interest them, the headline of an article you recently enjoyed on a topic that might interest them, and more.

Remember, just because a business couldn’t afford to keep you, does not mean you lack intrinsic value. Take the time to work through the above steps to make sure you are well prepared to communicate your value and to help your transition go more smoothly.

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Your resume and LinkedIn profile CAN position you for specific levels of leadership roles.

Showcase Your Leadership Style

First of all, know your leadership style. Many people WANT a leadership role, but it is difficult to advocate for yourself to take on a leadership role without knowing how to clearly articulate your leadership style. Leaders are VERY different from each other. Think about how you thrive.

Do you lead by example? Are you a servant leader? Do you make tough decisions based on data? Does empathy underpin all of your interactions? Do you hire experts and trust them to execute? Do you set high standards? Do you create order from chaos? Do you usher in change?

Most likely, your leadership style is a combination of a few attributes. It might help to ask colleagues, friends, or your significant other for their thoughts on the matter, too. When you KNOW how you lead, you will be able to showcase your leadership style. By doing so, you will be taken more seriously as a leader and be better aligned to find roles where you can THRIVE rather than just struggle through.

This is most often discussed in the summary of the Resume or in the About section on your LinkedIn profile. This extra piece of character will help you stand out and position you as a strong candidate.

Accomplishments that Highlight Leadership Skills

Here are some bullets you might see in content structured to attract leadership roles:

Team Leadership & Projects
  • Led cross-functional team implementing new technology and tools. Oversaw research and selection process, developed training, and advanced adoption timeline. Reduced workflow from 40 minutes to 2 minutes.

  • Rebalanced teams with complimentary skillsets and diverse problem solving and communication styles.

  • Introduced team rotation program, enabling cross-training and exposure to a wide range of projects.

Senior Leaders
  • Conducted competitive analysis and presented findings to C-suite and executive stakeholders.

  • Key contact with top accounts, facilitating demonstrations and maintaining a cadence of onsite visits to bypass the RFP process and secure lucrative agreements.

  • Developed, coached, and mentored team by offering training opportunities and internal job shadowing during off-peak periods.

  • Entrusted as the primary company representative at trade shows, conferences, and media/public events.

  • Featured public speaking engagements and interviews with industry-leading publications.

C-Level Leadership
  • Directed strategic planning and execution for greenfield development in the Southern region. Selected site, partnered with legal team to structure agreement, and hired leadership team.

  • Performed due diligence prior to 3 acquisitions selected to complement existing product portfolio.

  • Partnered with Head of People to reframe the company’s mission, vision, and values statements. Enacted a CEO communications strategy with speaking engagements and regular content on internal social media platform. Repositioned the organization as a destination place of work.

  • Broke down verticals by introducing rotation programs and expanding internal communication channels, such as a company-wide app with access to training with badging process, anonymous feedback, internal messaging, and kudos features.

Soft Skills Among Leaders

Leaders with high EQ are also in demand. Soft skills are tougher to train, so feature your communication skills and ability listen, inspire, motivate, present, negotiate, adapt,

and collaborate. It’s also important for leaders to understand how their work impacts the business as a whole, so include multidisciplinary awareness and contributions.

Here are some example bullets you might see highlighting soft skills in a resume or LinkedIn profile:

High EQ, Coaching & Mentoring

  • Introduced weekly lunch and learn, selecting speakers and topics based on suggestions.

  • Encouraged employees to come back into the office by setting up game tables that allowed team members to make a move on breaks. Bridged language barriers and fostered rapport among diverse team members with quick, numbers-based card games.

  • Established Friday afternoon cookouts with recognition and reward activities, such as reading weekly kudos, monthly awards, and mentor meetups.

  • Tapped top contributors to mentor green talent, accelerating contribution timeline, improving employee retention 5%, and increasing employee satisfaction 27% per independent survey.

A few soft skills can also be woven into the summary. Don’t just include them because you see them in job descriptions. Make sure the soft skills you include truly reflect what your own character and strengths.

Other Paths to Leadership Experience

If your current organization is fairly flat with no leadership opportunities, consider external routes to gain leadership experience. Join nonprofits or professional organizations and run for leadership positions. Join organizations dedicated to shaping leaders or networking with effective leaders.

Another option is to take courses and training to enhance your leadership skills. General leadership courses will work, as well as those that help you build soft skills in high demand for leadership positions.

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